Growers expect alfalfa acres to hold or increase

By Josh Callen
Josh Callen

During the last two weeks, I spoke at conferences for alfalfa hay growers in Idaho and Utah. While speaking at these meetings, I conducted polls on what growers expected their alfalfa hay acres to be in 2020 compared to 2019. Both areas produced almost identical results.

In Utah, 42% (n=38) said their alfalfa hay acres would be “up slightly” and another 42% said they expected “no change.” The remaining responses were, 5% for “up significantly” and 11% for “down slightly.” Even with the weather challenges of 2019, alfalfa hay was profitable for many Utah growers. In higher elevation regions of the West that have fewer crop options, it’s not surprising to see these results.

In Idaho, 45% of responses were for “up slightly,” 42% were “no change,” and 13% indicated “down slightly.” Idaho saw its fair share of weather challenges in 2019, especially eastern Idaho, but alfalfa hay was profitable for most state growers as well.

According to the USDA’s January estimates, the Idaho milk cow herd has grown by 23,000 head compared to the same month last year. Even with dairies reducing the amount of alfalfa hay in their milk cow rations, there should be more demand for alfalfa hay.

Josh Callen

Author of The Hoyt Report, providing hay market analysis and insight.